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Statements and speeches Multiple Mechanisms

SDG Summit: Strengthen human rights protection to tackle sustainable development crisis, UN experts say

12 September 2023

GENEVA (12 September 2023) – UN human rights experts* today called for an urgent change of course to accelerate progress to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals as world leaders gather in New York for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit. They issued the following statement:

“The United Nations will convene the SDG Summit on 18-19 September 2023 during the high-level week of the General Assembly, at the UN Headquarters in New York. The task at hand for world leaders is to confront the stark reality of a world that is woefully off track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015 and to strengthen the political will for accelerated action for years to come.

Halfway to the 2030 benchmark, it has become apparent that the world has missed the majority of SDG targets, as highlighted in the 2023 report of the UN Secretary-General. Despite repeated pledges for action, inequalities have not been reduced and the lives of those furthest behind have not improved. The root causes of enduring inequalities, connected to the legacy of colonialism and enduring exploitative practices, remain unresolved. Human rights defenders continue to be targeted and adequate climate finance is not forthcoming. The lack of enjoyment of the right to self-determination for millions of human beings remains a tragic reality. Persistence of settler-colonial practices, atrocity crimes and impunity gives the measure of how far the world is from the realisation of the SDGs.

Numerous factors have hampered progress: armed conflicts, economic crises, the increasingly visible effects of the triple crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic. However, fundamentally, the lack of progress is often a result of racism, populism, discrimination, inequalities and violations of human rights. Those who have been denied the benefits of past development efforts remain marginalised, disempowered and excluded. Children, youth, women, older persons, Indigenous Peoples, LGBTIQ+ people, racial, linguistic, religious and ethnic minorities, people of African descent, internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, people with disabilities and/or the poor frequently bear the brunt of this marginalisation. Unless we address the root causes of inequalities, exclusion, racism and entrenched discrimination faced by these people, inclusive and sustainable development for all will remain elusive.

Yet, there is a real danger that the Summit will fail to address these problems and once again miss the opportunity to deliver on the promise of leaving no one behind.

The time for tweaks is over. A fundamental shift is needed in how the world tackles existing crises – from climate change to conflicts, from poverty to polarisation, from food security to financialisation of human rights, from shrinking civic space to social security gaps, from debt to the digital divide, from gender backlash to growth obsession.

Political commitments, adopted by States at the Summit, should reinforce the importance of all human rights underpinning the accelerated realisation of the SDGs, as highlighted in the Joint Declaration on the SDG Summit adopted by the 29th Annual Meeting of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special attention should be given to the most vulnerable or marginalised individuals and communities and their livelihoods as a matter of urgency. 

We call for a redesign of the existing socio-economic system at local, national, regional and international levels to tackle inequalities, stay within planetary boundaries and ensure the realisation of all human rights for all without any distinction. This redesign must be driven by a truly people-centered human rights approach.

Effective implementation of the right to development – which entitles every human being and all peoples to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development – should be central to building a human rights economy. National development policies should be nationally owned and must place people and the planet at the centre to pursue inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. States and other development, peace and disaster risk reduction actors including international organisations, national human rights institutions, civil society, public development banks and businesses must ensure the active, free and meaningful participation of all individuals and communities in decision-making processes. These efforts must draw on gender disaggregated data and provide for adequate financing.”


*The experts:  Surya Deva, Special Rapporteur on the right to development; Ashwini. K.P. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;  Livingstone Sewanyana, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Alexandra Xanthaki, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Ms. Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Francesca Albanese, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967José Francisco Calí TzaySpecial Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous PeoplesFelipe González Morales, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Alice Cruz, Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; Mama Fatima Singhateh, Special Rapporteur on the sale, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children; The Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises,  Damilola Olawuyi (Chairperson), Robert McCorquodale (Vice-Chairperson), Fernanda Hopenhaym,  Elżbieta Karska and Pichamon Yeophantong; Ian Fry, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change; Siobhán Mullally, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Tomoya Obokata, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery; Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Ms. Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Michael Fakhri, Special Rapporteur on the right to food;  Clement Nyaletsossi Voulet, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Mr. Vitit MuntarbhornSpecial Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia; Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran;  Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia; Paula Gaviria Betancur, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons; David R. BoydSpecial Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Dorothy Estrada-Tanck (Chair), Elizabeth Broderick, Ivana Radačić, Meskerem Geset Techane and Melissa Upreti, Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Ms. Priya Gopalan (Chair-Rapporteur), Mr. Matthew Gillett (Vice-Chair on Communications), Ms. Ganna Yudkivska (Vice-Chair on Follow-Up), Ms. Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mr. Mumba Malila - Working Group on arbitrary detention; Gerard Quinn, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Obiora C.Okafor, Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity; Claudia Mahler, Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Ravindran Daniel (Chair-Rapporteur), Sorcha MacLeod, Chris Kwaja, Carlos Salazar Couto, Working Group on the use of mercenaries;  Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the rights to water and sanitation; Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the protection and promotion of freedom of opinion and expression; Ana Brian Nougrères, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy; Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority issues; Barbara G. Reynolds (Chair-Rapporteur), Bina D’Costa, Catherine S. Namakula, Dominique Day, and Miriam Ekiudoko,  Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; Ms. Liliana Valiña (chair), Ms. Isabelle Durant (vice-chair), Mr. Mihir Kanade, Ms. Klentiana Mahmutaj and Mr. Bonny Ibhawoh, Expert Mechanism on the Right to Development 

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

Expert mechanisms are subsidiary bodies of the Human Rights Council established to to provide the Council with thematic expertise. These mechanisms focus mainly on studies, research-based advice or best-practices. They meet and report annually to the Council.

For more information and media requests please contact: Antoanela Pavlova ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN's independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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